Throughout human history, since the advent of farming, the vast majority of humans were born, lived, and died within a few miles of their homes. That meant they didn't really need maps, since they spent all of their time in places they knew by sight. A map was a curiosity or an indulgence; the sort of thing a king might put on the wall to brag about his domain even though he had probably never seen much of it.
Later on, maps became extremely important as a way of exploring, as humans went all around the world to trade and interact with other cultures (albeit sometimes in more friendly ways than others). As roads and then railways connected us and travel came within the reach of the less wealthy, we all grew to understand the value of maps as showing us places we'd like to go, or which mattered because what was happening there affected our lives. Later, from airplanes, we were able to see our own nations from the air and appreciate their contours.
Then came satellites, and astronauts going into space. Ever since then, every child has a sense of the Earth's shapes and outlines - but they didn't always know where the boundaries were, as you can only rarely see these from space. With the rise of the internet, however, we all have access to detailed maps of the entire planet, and can finally truly know parts of our home world that we may never visit. It's time to find out whether you've been paying attention to this exciting resource. Let's get started!
The United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and a few territories and dependencies. It's known as Great Britain but technically, that only means England, Wales, and Scotland, which are on the island that is Great Britain (ie not Brittany, the area in today's France, or "Little Britain").
The United States are not individually easy to learn as so many of them are quite square. You can see here the giveaway that is Florida at the bottom right.
America's northerly neighbor is beautiful and friendly but also very cold. The vast majority of Canadians live near the border, as things get very icy the further north you go.
It's the biggest country in the world but nobody lives in most of it! Russia is absolutely vast, but it has almost no warm water ports, which is why it is so keen to expand south into the Black Sea area.
Japan is the most easterly nation to belong to the official Far East. It's just off the coast of China and while it looks small compared to its neighbor, it isn't; there are more than 100 million people there!
China is the most populous nation in the world with nearly 1.4 billion people. India is not far behind with 1.2 billion. China's population is rapidly increasing its wealth and joining the middle class.
While previously dogged by underdevelopment and corruption, Mexico has made massive strides to modernity recently, and people there are becoming more prosperous. This has resulted in a huge reduction in the number moving to the USA.
The biggest Muslim nation in the world and a long-time democracy, Indonesia has many islands. It suffered greatly in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami bearing the brunt of the wave across many of these islands.
New Zealand is a former British colony and one of the hardest-to-reach nations in the world. This is why it has a really small population for its size.
South Africa contains two small nations either entirely or mostly within its borders: Lesotho and Swaziland. South Africa is currently undergoing political upheaval that is in part a legacy of Apartheid's fall.
South Korea is one of the richest and most prosperous nations in the world. It is, unfortunately, a weaker nation between multiple major powers and one nutty dictator with nukes, so it has a delicate tightrope to walk.
It's France! France is one of America's best friends and noted for its more than 400 kinds of cheese, as well as its excellent culture. They enjoy one of the finest cuisines in the world.
Greece has a distinctive two-part shape with a narrow strip of land joining them. It is a hot and sunny nation that has some economic troubles, for a combination of complicated reasons!
You can recognize Egypt by the Suez Canal on the eastern side. This is the most important trade route in the world, with many billions of dollars of goods passing through it daily.
India is an up-and-coming economic power that suffers from a perpetually chaotic government with multiple parties in coalition. India's official languages are Hindi and English.
Thailand is a nation with an awful lot of coastline considering its size. This means its beaches are open for business, attracting millions of tourists to pristine white sands and palm trees.
Brazil is the most populous nation in South America and one of the great up-and-coming economies of the world. It contains a great deal of forest and is starting to do its best to protect it.
Panama used to be part of Colombia but became its own nation largely as a result of the very important canal that slices the nation in half. World trade would be much poorer if the Panama Canal were to close.
Germany in its current form is a relatively new nation. After World War II, it was divided during the Cold War but is now reunited and is the richest nation in Europe.
Norway is one of the richest nations in the world per capita. It has a great healthcare system and full literacy and numeracy. Norway is winning at life!
Australia barely has 25 million people in it but it's huge. There's no water in the middle of the continent and it's too hot for most of us to live, so people don't go there much!
Kiribati is a sad tale these days, as it consists mostly of coral atolls that will be drowned within 100 years by rising seas. However, it is making plans to move its entire population to Australia before this happens!
Sri Lanka is near India and enjoys a lot of trade with its major neighbor. It is not a wealthy nation yet, but it is very beautiful!
Malaysia is one of the economic powerhouses of Asia. It is a nation that is very dependent on air conditioning, as it is so hot there that computers couldn't function without it!
Jordan is a funny shape because it was basically scribbled on a map by a pair of British and French aristocrats 100 years ago. This set the stage for ongoing strife in this area - not that it was much better off before, as it was a colony of the Ottoman Empire!
Poland enjoys a hard time as the buffer between two major world powers: Germany and Russia. Every so often, one or both invades it and then they carve it up or chip off pieces and keep them.
Croatia is a horseshoe shape and is part of former Yugoslavia. It is a lot cheaper to visit than Italy but in other respects - food, landscape, weather, and architecture - has much of the same to offer.
Portugal is a former imperial power that shares a border with Spain. The south was once conquered by the Moors but the north was never subdued.
Holland is also known as the Netherlands. It is one of the freest and most equal nations in the world, with very good education and healthcare.
Kosovo was liberated after Slobodan Milosevic performed a genocide in the area against its ethnic Muslim population. It is now an independent nation (unless you ask Russia or Serbia).
Sao Tome and Principe are two islands but one country. The nation is situated off the coast of Africa and is mostly sited on top of a chain of volcanoes!
Haiti and the Dominican Republic are neighbors who have taken rough roads in the last couple centuries, with colonization and natural disasters. Haiti is a beautiful place and is hoping to expand its tourism industry.
This communist nation just off the Florida coast would be a prosperous trading partner, but policy is that Americans are not supposed to do unfettered business there. There are signs of an upcoming thaw in relations, however.
Chile is a very high, very dry nation on the Pacific coast of South America. It also owns Easter Island, the mysterious land of statues 2,000 miles out in the ocean.
Turkey is the seat of the former Ottoman Empire, which for 600 years colonized large portions of the Middle East, as well as various neighbors. Before that, it was the power center of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Yemen is a very dry nation at a high altitude. Its capital city, Sana'a, is one of the oldest - and highest - cities in the world and is known for its gold and white stone architecture, which is very beautiful.
Iraq is another nation that has weird borders as a result of careless imperialists. This is part of why it has an ongoing war. It's also suffering from reduced rainfall due to climate change.
The Philippines is not a state but has an awful lot of U.S. troops present. Their job is to protect this ally of the USA from its neighbors who have historically not been too friendly to it.
Kazakhstan is a vast country and is the ninth biggest in the world. However it's not very populated and is quite dry in places.
Nepal is the home of Mount Everest, which means it has a lot of tourism despite being extremely hard to reach. Its capital city is at what they consider to be a relatively low altitude, a mere 4, 593 feet.